In the Loop
Student Stories : Nov 12, 2014

UF choir students sing American classics in Colombia

By Chloe Weber

Some of the University of Florida’s (UF) best voices recently traveled to Buga, Colombia, to participate in Corpacoros’ International Choral Week 2014.

This marks the second year Dr. Will Kesling has been invited to present a choir at the festival, which celebrates international and Colombian choral groups with concerts, master classes and demonstrations.

This year’s group from UF was called “The Voices of Orpheus,” which is based on the mythological character of Orpheus, who calmed the beasts and tamed the wild heart of Hades to save his love Eurydice from death. The group was comprised of 20 men from Kesling’s Concert Choir.

“The Voices of Orpheus” stayed in the heart of the vicinity of the Basilica de Milagros, which provided an interesting experience with local customs. With the Basilica being a large tourist destination, the surrounding area was always alive with energy.

“Each day after our work was done, there was always singing, dancing and general celebration to be had in the lobby of our open-air hotel and even out in the streets,” said graduate voice student Joshua Mazur. “You didn’t have to dance well, you just had to dance, and you were at home!”

“I think that was a great cultural experience for my students,” said Kesling. “It’s something we've lost in America.”

One of the students’ favorite experiences of the festival included a performance at a local high school where the choir sang a program filled with all-American men’s choir favorites.

“The students went crazy for us, asking for pictures and for all of us to sign any and every little scrap of paper they had on them,” said Mazur. “I couldn’t think of anything to write them in Spanish, so I simply wrote ‘Bailar y Cantar Siempre!’ which translates to ‘Dance and Sing Always!’”

“It was amazing to be able to lift the spirits of the students for the short time we were there,” added Ross Cawthon, a graduate choral conducting student.

Another exciting performance came when the choir performed at Museo Rayo, a museum celebrating Colombian abstract artist Omar Rayo and were treated to dinner by Rayo’s wife, who was in attendance.

The choir performed their renditions of Ave Maria by Franz Biebl and Psalm 40 by Temple-Evans, which struck a chord with the audience.

“The audience was visibly and audibly in tears after our performance,” said Mazur.

Though many audience members present at the performances did not speak English, “The Voices of Orpheus” succeeded in communicating the emotions of each song to listeners from all around the world.

“It is very cliché, but it was so evident how music itself is a language, and can bring strangers together,” said Cawthon. “What we experienced has given me new inspiration to continue my work as a music educator.”